Physicians using an electronic health record (EHR) system in a “meaningful” way and who hope to qualify for the $18,000 incentive payment from Medicare this year can now report that they have met the requirements (starting Monday, April 18). This incentive is due to the economic stimulus legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, from 2009.

The first Medicare incentive checks will be cut by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in May. Physicians can file an “attestation” report, submitting online at the CMS website.

Physicians who satisfy meaningful use requirements (improving and streamlining patient care with digital technology) for the first time in either 2011 or 2012 will receive $18,000 that year. Annual payments will decrease over the next 4 years, adding up to $44,000.

All incentive payments cease after 2016.

Starting in 2015, physicians who fail to demonstrate meaningful use of an EHR system starting in 2015 will experience financial consequences: a 1% reduction in Medicare reimbursement. This reduction will increase to 2% in 2016, and 3% in 2017 and beyond.